Cuban Ropa Vieja


Embark on a culinary journey to the vibrant streets of Cuba with Cuban Ropa Vieja—a mouthwatering and iconic dish that encapsulates the essence of Cuban cuisine. This classic recipe features tender shredded beef simmered in a flavorful tomato-based sauce with aromatic spices and vegetables. The name “Ropa Vieja” translates to “old clothes,” as the shredded beef resembles tattered fabric, but the taste is anything but old. This hearty and savory dish is sure to transport you to the rich cultural heritage of Cuba. Join us as we explore the ingredients, step-by-step instructions, and valuable tips to prepare this delightful Cuban Ropa Vieja that will become a treasured favorite in your kitchen.


  • 2 lbs beef flank steak or skirt steak
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional, for heat)
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish
  • Cooked white rice for serving

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Browning the Beef

  1. Season the beef flank steak or skirt steak with salt and black pepper on both sides.
  2. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the seasoned beef and sear it for 2-3 minutes on each side until it develops a brown crust. Remove the beef from the skillet and set it aside.

Step 2: Sauteing the Aromatics

  1. In the same skillet, sauté the thinly sliced onions, green bell peppers, and red bell peppers until they become tender and slightly caramelized.
  2. Add the minced garlic and continue sautéing for another minute until fragrant.

Step 3: Creating the Ropa Vieja Sauce

  1. Add the diced tomatoes (with their juices), beef broth, dry white wine (if using), tomato paste, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground paprika, ground black pepper, and ground cayenne pepper (if using) to the skillet with the sautéed vegetables.
  2. Stir the ingredients together to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Step 4: Simmering the Beef

  1. Return the seared beef to the skillet with the sauce, ensuring it is submerged in the liquid.
  2. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet or Dutch oven with a lid, and let the beef simmer for 2-3 hours or until it becomes tender and easily shreds with a fork.

Step 5: Shredding and Serving the Ropa Vieja

  1. Once the beef is fully cooked, remove it from the skillet and place it on a cutting board.
  2. Use two forks to shred the beef into thin strips, resembling “old clothes.”
  3. Return the shredded beef to the skillet with the sauce, stirring it to coat the beef in the flavorful sauce.

Step 6: Garnishing and Serving Cuban Ropa Vieja

  1. Garnish the Cuban Ropa Vieja with fresh cilantro or parsley for a burst of color and herbaceous flavor.
  2. Serve the Ropa Vieja over a bed of cooked white rice, allowing the rice to soak up the delectable sauce.

Tips for Perfect Cuban Ropa Vieja:

  1. For an authentic Cuban touch, you can substitute the dry white wine with beef broth or water.
  2. To save time, you can also prepare Cuban Ropa Vieja in a slow cooker. Follow steps 2 to 4 and transfer the seared beef and sautéed vegetables to the slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours.
  3. Customize the spice level by adjusting the amount of ground cayenne pepper or adding sliced jalapeño peppers for extra heat.
  4. Ropa Vieja tastes even better when reheated, so consider making it in advance and refrigerating it overnight for enhanced flavors.
  5. Accompany the dish with traditional Cuban sides like black beans, fried plantains, or yuca for a complete and authentic Cuban meal.


Indulge in the delightful flavors of Cuban Ropa Vieja—a soulful and comforting dish that showcases the vibrant spirit of Cuban cuisine. With tender shredded beef simmered in a fragrant tomato-based sauce, this iconic Cuban recipe promises to take you on a flavorful journey to the heart of Cuba. So, gather your ingredients, sear the beef, and let the savory aroma of Ropa Vieja fill your kitchen. Savor the tender, “old clothes”-like strips of beef combined with the richness of the sauce served over fluffy white rice, and immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of Cuba with this cherished and treasured dish.

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